A last-second effort by Rep. Richard Pombo (R-CA) to sneak in several provisions to the 2006 Budget Reconciliation Bill would have granted private companies the opportunity to buy public lands containing valuable minerals without paying a royalty to the taxpayer. This provision would have impacted at least six million acres of federal land, including thousands of acres of pre-existing claims within National Monuments, Wilderness Areas, and along Wild and Scenic Rivers.
Fortunately, hunters, anglers, western governors, former federal agency officials, and environmental groups coalesced in an effort to derail this harmful provision. Faced with growing opposition as a result of a large-scale grassroots campaign, western senators from both sides of the aisle began to speak out about the public’s right to access public lands. With widespread opposition to the Pombo provision solidified, the mining provision was dropped from the House budget bill in mid-December, only a month after it was introduced.
Despite this victory, our public lands still face threats from members of Congress who believe that oil and gas activities and other types of development should be the main use of our treasured resources. We continue to fight such misguided and ill-conceived proposals.